Emerging from Cocoons!

Everyone is slowly, with caution and being very measured and very careful emerging out of their cocoons, now looking around and figuring out what they can do.  I guess for travelers like me, there has been lot of plans especially for trips – places to visit or revisit and activities to do – all of which everyone is dying to savor once again. For me, I’ve been missing the trips and the randomness of being on the road.

Slowly, I’m preparing myself to get back into the groove, those that would lead to where and what I love – the depths!  Also, I’ve been longing for those treks and being on top of heights.  Few of my planned hustles in the next semester is now in order, and I can’t wait! 😊

Dive in Mantangale and Camiguin

I have been dying to be back in my element, it’s unbelievable that it’s been two years since my last dive.  So for my quickie trip, my go-to abode for diving will always be Mantangale, Balingoan. And more than just for the dives, the place is perfect for other activities to unwind after a long week. One can sit quietly by the beach watching the horizons colored in perfect shades of blue, with the island born of fire at a distance!

Speaking of island, my favorite island of Camiguin is a haven for diving with thirty (30) dive sites all over, some of which are hard to beat. Aside from its natural wonders – falls, volcano, hot & cold spring, white beach, soda spring, so on – visit to the island is not complete without diving in its pristine reefs.

             Mantangale Alibuag Dive  Resort Inc. (MADRI)

             Balingoan, Misamis Oriental

            www.mantangale.com

            Mobile No. 0917 801 4560 or 0916 303 9415

            Camiguin Soul Divers

            Looc Tupsan, Mambajao, Camiguin

            www.camiguinsouldivers.com

            Mobile No. 0919 925 8453

Back to Isla

Busan Grande group has always been favorite get away, especially in those times when I just want for some quiet sojourn.  A place where one can find comfort surrounded with blue and green waters while listening to crashing waves, yet secluded from great structures.  Most importantly, its inhabitants are organized communities that are involved in protecting and preserving their invaluable resources.  They perfectly understood that nobody would do it for them except themselves and its protection is their ultimate mission if not sustain this nature’s gift endowed for their livelihood. The coastal communities around the islands believed in their heart that natural resources are always worth the effort in its preservation and protection as legacy for the next generation.

            Sohoton Grande Tours

            SAVE Sohoton Org.

            Mobile No. 0963 926 1426

Go Climb Once More

Just few days when I get back at work, my trekking group welcomed me with a trip plan and what a joy! So they were saying after 2ndQ hustles, we will go for a camping trip, They will make the necessary  arrangements with friends in South Cotabato.  The good thing is, I’ll tag along with them just leaving everything to their command.

Lake Holon trails just opened again for public after a lull during the pandemic, it was launched last March 12 spearheaded by Tboli Tourism Office and this was good news for all.  Actually, it’s like shooting two birds for this trek, climb Mt. Melingoy (Mt. Parker) and camp at Lake Holon. Another nature’s surprises await for this trip!

Diving in Jigdup Shoal

Obviously, Camiguin Island is one of my favorite destinations for diving, aside from being accessible and cost saving, the sites are arguably teeming with marine life and less crowded from divers. Jigdup Shoal has been a far dream, it was not a usual “go to” site actually, to my mind I presumed it was for hard core divers.

Deep diving at the Shoal!

There is always something new in my favorite island even if I come here again and again. We never thought we could dive in the shoal, it lies in the open seas and any changes in tides, current or waves can be risky. The DM told me that couple of days back the skies were overcast and the surfs were up, so he was hinting for Mantigue Island again for our scheduled dives.

The cheery morning greeted us as we cruised for Camiguin from Balingoan – beautiful sunrise, clear skies, calm waters – exactly what we needed for the day!  I was smiling and hoping at the back of my mind for the shoal. 🙂 Indeed, when we arrived at the diveshop, the DM announced for the Jigdup Shoal trip!

The corals bloom competing each other!

We wasted no time as we cruised for the shoal, situated in front of Bohol seas. The wide, blue waters was unbelievably calm, so perfect for our dives! Again, the God of the seas favored us in that weekend sojourn. Our first descent was in Black Forest, the briefing limited us at 25 meters depth with maximum of 45 minutes. I guess our DM had repetitive dives in the past days, so keeping safe his profile. The rich diversity of marine life was not surprising, the healthy waters was decorated with hard and soft corals and teeming with fish life. Floating around in the midst of marine creatures felt like home. It was so engaging I fell into more than our limits without noticing my depth. But being back in the waters after six long months was what I needed, I was aching for peace and serenity I can only find in the waters. It was unfortunate as I went around I found a fish trap waiting for prey, I felt bad just seeing them. In no time, I hold on to Angel to steady myself for our safety stop until we surface up. I went 32.2 meters and we had 56 minutes bottom time, way beyond the given limits.

Can you see the scorpion fish?

We spent our surface interval lounging on our boat amid the blue waters. The good thing was we are all alone in the shoal, at a distance I can only saw few fishers on their small boats treading for some catch. The blue skies and blue waters was so calming.

Blue skies, blue seas. Every shades in blue…

I left myself under the sun for few minutes just watching the horizons.

Culcita Noveginae side by side with a feather star, a rare sight!

Our second descent was in The Wall, which was just nearby and was richly decorated with critters. There were nudis, feather stars, giant clams, perennial anemone fish and lots of juveniles. We were hoping for white tips or mantas but we were not lucky. We sighted a turtle gently swimming away from us, pointing it out to Angel – his favorite specie. We swam and floated in the warm afternoon waters making most of the last few minutes, until we had our safety stop in the shallows. Hopping up on the corals searching for critters, we found a black shell on the sandy bottom, lingered awhile touching until it becomes all white! We lingered more until the DM gestured for surface. At 78 minutes bottom time, it was longer as we have planned. As usual, it was surprisingly good!

This elusive cowrie can turn all white after being touched!

We cruised back to the island grateful for the dives conquering the Jigdup Shoal. Camiguin has always in store few surprises feeding my soul, and it was such pure joy!

NB.

We were hoping to avail of perks during the Camiguin Dive Festival but nil, registrants need to appear at the DOT Office located in Mambajao, our dive shop was in Tupsan few kilometers away before town proper.

Bucas Grande: My Island, My Home

Serenity is where home is…

There are places you wanted to come home to even how far and remote it could be. A place where one can find comfort surrounded with green and blue waters listening the crashing waves, yet secluded from great structures. Bucas Grande Islands has always been my favorite get away.

After a lull of almost two years, I was back in the islands. There was no plan actually, my summer was void with trips except my farm visits. Things just fell its place, randomly our good friend in municipal tourism gave a ring and my travel buddy just pop up to visit the islands. My mind drift off to serene waters, blue lagoons, green environs, patch of white beaches, the nocturnal crickets singing, and the crashing waves that lull me to sleep. Simple pleasures that can be savored only in these remote islands.

We arrived Port Hayanggabon in time for lunch, so had a stop in a seafood shack while waiting for our boat. Lot of new structures sprouted at the port since my last visit. We found our boat and wasted no time for the cruise amid the waves, smiling our way as the sea breeze blew on our skins cooling the hot afternoon. And headed straight to tourism center for some pleasantries with our hosts and picking up where we left off since our last meeting.  After more than ten years there has been changes to cater the growing number of tourists and crew, and in a way surprised of new structures around the area.. The old tourism center almost dilapidated gave in to a larger shack with wider receiving area, surrounding ramps, platforms and docking area. There’s a floating cottage and floating restaurant nearby – well, I was wondering about its waste disposal!

Rushing up to get most of the remaining afternoon and the low tide, we head straight to Sohoton Cove – the mystical maze of islands covered in green foliage. We entered smoothly, our boat maneuvered perfectly with no hesitation or doubt. Once inside, I still had that same feeling of wonder like getting into a different realm, into another world – a city on the waters! We did our homage in Hagukan Cave, swam the warm waters glad of the super low tide, most importantly it was all to ourselves, such perfect timing! That rock in the middle was all to ourselves to stand on, as we view above the rock formations. I skipped the Magkakaub Cave, it was bit crowded. Angel did the climb and the plunge perfectly. 🙂 It started to drizzle as we did the last round and finally headed for the exit and in few minutes we were back in the center.  Later, we hopped to Puyo Island but decided to settle for Marka A Island for a swim.  We picked up few trash from the shores as we went around, the good thing was because it was already late, it was all to ourselves again.

We had a relaxing dinner back at the center, all the crew and tourists called it a day so we were left in tranquility, savoring again the serenity of the islands. The crickets started to chirp in the dusk. The center is now lit with few colored bulbs, a new improvement I guess as they were able to generate energy supply from few solar panels installed.

Unfortunately, Cinnamon Island where we had our lodgings for the night were full of guests so we missed its relaxing mode like it used to be. The crashing waves though, muffled the laughing and singing of the people.

Time was too limited, the next day though we revisited few sites we love. Our first agenda was the Tojoman Lake in search for the sting-less jellyfish, but there was none and instead looked up as brown giant bats started flying above the trees. We paddled around and our boat guide led us to Lubogon Lagoon, we found few juveniles silently floating the waters.  Tiktikan Lake used to be operated by fishermen coop, more structures were now at the entrance, bigger shack, slides, catwalk, platform and diving board. The interior lake itself was maintained but was deserted when we got there after a short trek, more people preferred the fronts which offered diving from heights.

La Fortuna was our last stop, the small strip of white beach at the front was an attraction but more was in store for us.  We trek for ten minutes for Bubon Lagoon, we have explored this secret nook before but now went beyond watching the placid waters. We kayaked around the lagoon, the lush foliage covering karst cliffs reflecting on the waters was purely a relaxing sight. It was all to ourselves! We’re on the run, yet we snatched few minutes to swam and play at the beach as we got back in the front.  Clottie joined us without complaining, this cute curly pup goof around with us, I gave her a bath but didn’t like it! And we enjoyed Raffy’s fresh buko, enough to quench our thirst and made us full!

We had late light lunch back at the center with our hosts, had brief pleasantries and finally bid bye. It was so short.  We cruised the afternoon waves for the port, again the sea breeze blew gently on our skin as we watched the vast blue sea before us. So brief, yet it felt so refreshing!

Last Note

It’s now more than a decade since I kept coming back here and I am glad that the islands have maintained its pristine waters and still free from trash. As we get around hopping to our fave spots, my keen eyes noticed few scraps which I pointed out to our boatman, in turn he assured me that a team was assigned for such task on a daily basis. The lesson I learned from the locals was that, getting the community involved to protect and preserve their invaluable resources was an effective strategy, they understood that nobody would do it for them except themselves and its protection is their ultimate mission if not to sustain this nature’s gift for their livelihood.  The coastal communities around the islands understood well that natural resources is always worth of care and preservation for the next generation.

Adoring Apo Island!

After a successful mission at Coral Cay Conservation, I was aching to be back in the waters for my quests. There was no definite plan though, but I need to get immersed again in a more relaxed environment in my own terms in my grand element. And what a better way to start my diving year with my dive buddy in one of the outstanding community managed marine protected area in the country.  It’s been more than three years since our last hop to Apo Island, after a relaxing sojourn from Siquijor, and again it was diving and snorkeling in the sanctuary. I could vividly remember the turtles silently grazing the sea grasses as I watched them while floating in the shallows, it was a lovely sight!

Linkia Laevegata!

We took the long route by bus from Cebu City to the southern tip of the province in Santander town taking the ferry from Liloan Port.  Arriving past 4am at the port, I succumbed to my drooping eyes for few minutes before we took the 4:45am first trip to Sibulan. While cruising, the waves tossed us fiercely and I begun to worry that the waters would be too rough for our dives. Approaching the Sibulan port was hard, and coming up to the port was even harder. Perfect timing was necessary, you need to run up the gangplank before another big wave tossed up the ferry. It was a good way to start the day for some adrenaline rush to be wide awake!

After a tsokolate-suman painit at the tiangge which we loved, we rushed to Harold’s Dive Center and felt relieved that our dives went as scheduled. To my surprise, we were a big pack for Apo Island that day, the Chinese and Koreans dominated the bunch. We were all in two full mini-buses!

Katipanan and Chapel

The waters was rough indeed slowing our cruise to the island yet the sight of wide blue seas lifted my spirit, I was hoping to see again the friendly turtles.  There were diving boats already when we got there and to my surprise, many snorkelers were scattered already in the waters. The waters got crowded and I was sad thinking of the turtles, sea kraits and juvenile fishes in the sanctuary, the pressures of the disturbance in their habitat could cause much damage. I was hoping it wasn’t on a daily basis.

This friendly turtle allowed us to get near, it wasn’t an intrusion!

We were joined with an Australian and Chinese, four divers in one DM was good enough. The larger bunch of Chinese divers were in different groups. After setting up our gears, I was glad our DM reminded us for the buddy check before jumping off, I admitted we overlook this necessary protocol often times.  The water was still choppy though it was sunny, but the cold waters felt good as we jumped in. As we waited for the other two newbie divers, we beg off for descent as the waves were surfing up and could waste my energy. Holding hands with my dive buddy, we immersed and quickly seek the depths from the rough surface. Yes, down there it was calm and safer as I expected.

Before I always mistook this as anemone, but no. It’s a Mushroom coral!

Katipanan as I vaguely remember was teeming with life, wide coral fields decorated with juveniles. Indeed, it is healthy as it was before but I didn’t see much fish life but large swarms of juveniles were visible. Surprisingly, my favorite garden eels came into view but not without Angel pointing it out to me. Their bodies half-way up poking from their holes on white sandy area, perhaps eyeing for food but as soon as we get nearer they went down slowly.  Few stood their grounds and I paused momentarily, I just love watching the eels! We found a turtle resting above the corals, not moving even we got near. The turtles in this island are generally friendly, perhaps they got used already to human visitors!  I was taking my time while floating weightlessly, just as it is, while it was choppy at the surface, beyond it was all serene and relaxing.  It was a surprise there were group of jacks that graced as we swam around for the coral fields, a banded sea snake appeared also wiggling among the corals which we promptly evade. 🙂 We had our safety stop over the corals until we got near under our dive boat. We had 21.5 meters as deepest with 42 minutes bottom time.

A common sight on healthy marine environment, juveniles over a colorful coral field!

We had light meals that served as our surface interval, it was bit windy though and staying on the boat felt cold. The waves getting fierce in the afternoon, the waters more choppy.

The boat moved to the Chapel for our last descent, finding refuge in another dive boat as the waves tossed us. Again, we waited for the two divers after we had the giant stride – the waves kept tossing us and I practically stayed near my buddy for safety.  It took forever waiting for them, but as soon as we got down there was silence and the current was just mild. We were on coral fields again, just flourishing beating each other! Different hard and soft corals abound the area, there were nudis and my favorite moray eel appeared for me too, it was a giant one. The gentle turtles again – well, it won’t be Apo island without the turtles!  We roamed the colorful coral fields just near our dive boat until we had our safety stop. We ascend still with 110 bars after 55 minutes bottom time.

Found some nudis at the Chapel

The two relaxing dives were just perfect, after the works during the expedition it was what I needed. No pressures, just purely at peace with my favorite critters wanting to connect with them in their natural habitat. The marine environment of Apo Island is healthy as of now but I am not sure if this can be maintained. I was bit troubled of the large swarm of snorkelers and even divers, such bulk of disturbance is surely detrimental for the marine life. I fervently hope the community shall be mindful of the risks and inevitable impacts in a better perspective.

Looking up for the sunlight, can you see the turtle?

We silently cruise back to the shores of Dauin, bearing the cold winds and salt water spraying us from the fierce waves. Again, the cruise took forever but felt relieved that the shores was very calm.  Angel and I flashed a wide smile as we talk about Casablanca and Sans Rival as we drove back into the city.

Dumaguete City, pure lovely in every way!

October Fever!

So after being away and organizing a lot of issues when I got back, the depths was my most urgent agenda. Six months were just so long. More than anything else, I need the waters in preparation for the expedition in Southern Leyte.

Through all these years, MADRI (Mantangale Alibuag Dive Resort, Inc.) has been my refuge whenever I need a plunge without getting far, and of course not incurring much expenses. I am always grateful because they’re just a call or text away, even if there were no other guests I got accommodated. So one Saturday morning of October I head for Balingoan to quench my salt water craze, and I was alone. Obviously, it was an exclusive dive for me! 🙂

Just hold on…

The favorite and most wanted site at the shop was none other the house reef at Banaug Shoal, as I said again and again I’ll never get tired of coming here. I was welcomed by Sir Dong which later joined me on the first dive, it felt good to be back once more, just like a refuge. The waters were bit choppy as we sped off, there was current and so I seek safety through the line for the descent. And there was silence, into another world…

This black snapper followed us like a pup!

After lunch which served as my surface interval, we head for Bugtong Bato near Sipaka Point. Although I visited the point few times in the past, I have blurred memory of this big rock emerging off the coast of Sipaka. It can be seen from a distance as you approach the boundary between the next town of Talisayan, from the surface it looks desolate, barren and devoid of life. But underwater, it depicts a different picture, so colorful, very diverse and teeming with life!

Our descent was shallower as we aimed to circle around the tiny rock isle, it was entertaining and spent a good 60 minutes just awed with its abundance.

So diverse and teeming with life!

The two dives just made my day, I was still in high spirits as I packed my gears preparing to leave. One important thought was, MADRI will always be my home as I can always come in its fold anytime and they all welcome me with open arms and for sure, open hearts.  A home for my diving needs decorated with a relaxing view of the blue seas with Camiguin island as backdrop.  So picturesque! 🙂

Speaking of Camiguin!

Two weeks later, catching a bus too early we head off to Balingoan with my dive buddy but went further beyond, cruising to my favorite island. 🙂 The sunny cruise lifted our spirits while watching the surrounding blue waters and Mantigue Island at a distance. 🙂 Our host (Camiguin Soul Divers) warned us to be on time as there were other guests for the day.  Our transpo connections went fluidly and we still got time for coffee with our dive master when we got to the shop located at Looc, Tupsan. The good news from Jenny was, the island was temporarily closed to public and only dive boats can get to Mantigue which meant it’s not crowded and no waters disturbance during our dives!

Giant clam hiding…

It felt good to be back when just ten months ago (December 2017) we had our year-end dive in Mantigue Island and set foot to watch sunrise at White Island. We were back just in time when lanzones (buahan in dialect) were still abundant as the festival just ended. You know, you can only find the sweetest lanzones in Camiguin Island!

Our first descent was at the Marine Sanctuary as we were aiming for the jacks, we went south meeting resident species – the giant batfish swimming coyly, green turtles, snappers, etc. There was giant clam, the crown of thorns lurking under the corals without doubt slowly feeding from polyps.  There was only a vague group of jackfish hovering above but not actively swimming in unison. The perennial anemone fish graced us before we ended our dive.

An anemone fish family!

We descend again on the other end of the Marine Sanctuary on the sandy bottom passing over the coral fields, we had a dose of turtles around the area. There was one who was unmindful of our presence, it was some kind of sleeping hiding its head under the crevice. It was not moving even if we are so near trying to get its attention, so endearing I wanted to pet its back! We continued floating around feeling weightless, grateful being underwater with critter friends – turtles, batfish, jacks, triggerfish, anemone fish, and more. The abundance of the sanctuary was pure blessings.  We cruised back to the dive shop shores ending our day dives but not the fun we had in the island.

Oh, it was sleeping! 🙂

Dear Camiguin, I will come again!